A report released this week by Cook Country Treasurer Maria Pappas isn’t getting the attention it deserves in the regular press. It’s devastating. The worst is summarized in the first eight pages of her Powerpoint presentation. Key points from it:

•  The ratio of government workers to government retirees for all units of government within Cook County is just 1.07 to 1. There are 135,757 local government employees, compared with 126,528 retirees.

•  The City of Chicago has far more retirees than workers: 47,592 retirees and 35,655 current workers.

•  Of Cook County’s 547 taxing districts within the county (yes, you read that right), 169 have fewer current workers paying into pension funds than retirees receiving benefits. That’s way up from 130 in 2016.

Cook Country Treasurer Maria Pappas

Those low ratios of workers to retirees are critical because pensions become much more difficult, if not impossible, to sustain when the ratio goes upside down. Pension math depends on new workers contributing to the system, but they are getting outnumbered by retirees taking money out.

Details on those points and more for each unit of government are in the other data she released.

Big salute to Treasurer Pappas on transparency. Her office is a standout in Illinois for making data available and usable, and she doesn’t sugarcoat what she finds.

Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.


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Richard Prucnal
1 year ago

Appreciate the transparency but this sounds like a pitch for a wave of new hires

1 year ago

it is strange that none of the major new outlets reported on pappas report, especially with cc president-taxwinkle in mayor run-off? and lightfoots not trying to capitalize on any of the details in report. Pappas also very concerned about chicago & cc 57,000 home owners who homes are about to be auctioned off because they can’t pay taxes in a few weeks–once again taxwinkle or lightfoot have nothing to say?

1 year ago
Reply to  NB-Chicago

also, what astounding about report is this is from the cc dem machine itself!!!-basically an admission the situations hopeless!! or is pappas going it alone & bucking the machine

1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

Sure would be interesting to find out what % of all those retirees still live in cc or illinois.

S and P 500
1 year ago

I’m convinced that the college admission scandal involving two famous Hollywood actresses is partly connected to the pension crisis. UCLA now charges around $13,000 a year for tuition which is deplorable since UC is supposed to be an affordable public university. UC has around $15 billion in unfunded pension liabilities which is partly why tuition keeps going up. If our universities have become a pension cash-grab then it takes just a little more mental adjustment to accept bribes for admission.


1 year ago
Reply to  S and P 500

That and the glut of administrators outnumbering teachers by ratios never seen before. Then the schools stand up “cheap classes” that can be implemented itch only the cost of a teacher and classroom. Sociology, psychology, etc. whereas technical classes that are expensive to stand up because you need lab equipment, etc. are reduced. Yet it’s those latter classes that provide the marketable skills. Yes pension costs are even compromising the curriculum, so many junk classes, but those have a higher profit margin I guess.

1 year ago

Would this be a honest cook county employee?

1 year ago

You have to look at both the active/retiree ratio and funding percentage. For example, the SUMMIT PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT has one employee and 9 retirees but is 101% funded. The TOWN OF PALATINE has 13 employees and 35 retirees but is 108% funded. I would’ve guessed both would be in poor shape but they’re not. But maybe this means these funds are susceptible to severe funding ratio drops? All subject to generous assumptions, of course.